All Saints of North America Orthodox Church
All Saints of North America 2550 Schuetz Rd
Maryland Heights, Missouri 63043
314 994-0220

V. Rev. Fr. Steven Salaris, Priest

Paschal Tomb

Paschal Tomb

I have had several request for information about how we built the tomb we use for the paschal services.  The following are some notes that will give you some idea of what we did, and some background on the design.

Goals

There were several goals in making the tomb (besides the tomb itself):
  • A couple of us in the church like woodworking, and want to see more craftsmanship and artistry in the church.
  • We were low budget, and looking for an alternative to what was available in catalogs.
  • We needed something relatively quickly.
  • We were not committed to a strategic design, so wanted to make something toward which we would not feel a long term commitment.
  • It had to be portable, fit through our doors while processing, and not take a lot of storage space.

Design

We looked at a number of tombs at other churches, and modeled this one along the lines of one at Dormition Monastery (Rives Junction, MI).  It started out as two tables, one stacked on top of the other, then evolved into the bottom table's legs being a separate unit (a tray on top of an un-topped table).  This final design allows us to lift up the tomb for processing, without worrying about tripping or catching things on dangling legs.
The tray and top have an upper lip about 2 inches higher than the "tray" portion.  This dimension was chosen so any floral foam used to hold flowers would be hidden behind this lip.
The decorative top is two arches, notched to fit into each other.  The dimensions were determined by what would fit, corner to corner, into the top.  The curve was hand drawn on paper, then transferred to the wood.
There are no design drawings.  We had some rough sketches (now long gone), but most of the work was based off of the models.
Below are some photos of an early design model (constructed of balsa wood),  used to give people an idea of the plans, and to help think through design and construction issues.
Tomb Parts
Bottom legs (upper left), Top (upper right), Table or Tray (lower center)

Tomb Bottom
Bottom view of top and legs (legs are simply screwed into the corners)

Tomb Apart
Model showing upper portion lifted off of the legs

Tomb Model
Assembled Model

Materials

All materials were standard dimension lumber from the local hardware stores (Lowes and/or Home Depot).  Since we knew we were going to paint the tomb, we used poplar, aspen and 1/4 inch medium density fiber board.  Now that we know that the design worked, if we were doing this again we would use red oak (and oak ply).
Bill of Materials:
  • 8 2x2x3' legs
  • 2 1/4 inch 4'x4' sheet of MDF (medium density fiber board) One sheet for the tops, one for the arches.
  • 9 1x6x4' boards
  • 1.5 inch dry-wall screws
  • glue

Tools

  • Table Saw
  • Drill (with countersink bit and screwdriver bit))
  • Table Router  (with 1/4 inch straight bit)
  • Scroll Saw (for handles)

Dimensions 

I don't have the tomb available, so I am guessing about the size from what I remember.  I believe the top and tray were 2 feet by 3 feet.  The top of the tray was standard table height (about 30 inches).  The height of the upper portion was eye-balled for good proportion, and to comfortably be carried under a door.  Handles extended out 6 inches, with a hand drawn curve for a comfortable fit (we played around with cardboard and scrap wood).
The frame for the bottom legs was dimensioned to fit inside the tray bottom, with about 1 inch of total margin (you want a loose fit, not tight).
By the upper legs being inside the top, they also fit inside of the top of the tray.

Construction

The sides were all butt joined, with the longer side being on the outside (see the model).
The "table tops" were rabbited 1/4 inch into the sides, all the way around.  We used a router, but several passes over a table saw would work about as well.
Everything was screwed (drywall screws) and glued together.  Most screws were counter-sunk, and the holes filled with putty.
The tomb was finished with a dark red/brown latex paint.
The cross on the top was custom made by David Walsh (a real fine piece of work).

Tomb under construction
Tomb During Construction

Finished Tomb
Finished Tomb

last updated:Sunday, 22-Apr-2007 20:56:10 EDT

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a parish of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America